Are Subject Tests and AP Exams Necessary in Spring of 2020?

Phoebe Keyes, Senior College Admission Advisor Apr 2020


The College Board recently canceled its April and May test dates leaving many students understandably worried that they’ll no longer have adequate time to prepare for SAT Subject Tests. 

MIT, which has long required at least two Subject Tests, announced last week that it would no longer consider Subject Tests as part of their application. This follows a similar decision by Harvey Mudd last month. Historically, when big-name institutions like these make radical changes to policy, it’s only a matter of time before other schools follow suit. We’ll keep you posted as other colleges chime in. 

What does that mean for me, though? Should I still plan to study and sit for Subject Tests? 

We wish we had a clear cut answer for you. For now, here’s what we recommend: 

First, consider your college list. If it includes colleges that still recommend or require Subject Tests, you should proceed with the intent to take them. 

We suspect engineering schools will be the final holdouts when it comes to Subject Tests. If you’re applying to engineering programs—particularly at flagship public institutions—you should assume Subject Tests will still benefit your application. 

That said, colleges realize students are operating under a time crunch and will be more lenient in how they weight these exams. So, stay calm, keep things in perspective, and talk to your guidance department and academic advisors. Empire Edge can also help you create a revised testing schedule that plays to your strengths and gives you time to prepare for the tests you need to take.

I’ve already taken a Subject Test. Will colleges still accept it? 

It depends. MIT’s new policy, for example, precludes submission of any SAT Subject Tests, which is disappointing for students who’ve already taken the exams. Other schools will continue to consider Subject Tests as part of their review process, even if they’re not required. 

I’m applying to a few colleges that only recommend subject tests. Do I still need to take them? 

Probably. We generally encourage students to treat any college’s “recommendation” as a requirement, but the current landscape looks a little different. If you’re worried your SAT/ACT scores will suffer from this rushed schedule, it might make sense to consider taking only one Subject Test. 


The College Board will offer truncated versions of AP exams to be taken online. The 45-minute test, comprised entirely of “free response” questions, is designed to cover only material taught before schools began to close. If your class was not following the official AP curriculum, we can help you determine the additional topics you will be responsible for on the AP exam.

Should I take the online exams? 

Not necessarily. Admission decisions rarely consider AP exam scores anyway, and we’re not convinced that the unknowns surrounding these revised exams—including concerns regarding legitimacy and security—are worth the stress for most students. 

However, you should consider taking the exams if: 

  • Your school requires you to take the exam or if your course grade is correlated with your exam score.
  • You’re hoping to skip certain freshman year prerequisite classes or distribution requirements. Normally, many colleges will award credit for 4s and 5s on relevant AP exams. At this point, though, it’s not clear whether colleges will still accept scores from the revised exams. 
  • You need to compensate for otherwise poor marks. Submitting AP scores to colleges can prove useful in cases where grades don’t necessarily reflect a student’s abilities. If, for example, you missed a substantial portion of school last year and bombed your math final, it might be worth taking the AP Calculus exam. 

The Takeaway 

These are strange, uncertain times. But you’re not alone! Every junior in the country is facing similarly bizarre (and stressful) circumstances. Remember, every college application is read by actual people who are fully aware of the hand you’ve been dealt. 

About Empire Edge

Empire Edge is a premier educational services company serving students in New York City and the surrounding areas.  We deliver exemplary academic assistance and standardized test preparation to students of all levels. Through classes and one-on-one meetings, our team strives to create a personal connection to the subject matter, bolstering mastery and self-confidence in the process.


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